Hazard (game)

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Hazard is an Old English game played with two dice which was mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the 14th century.

Hazard is not interchangeable with "Grand Hazard," which is played with three dice; Grand Hazard is similar to Sic bo.

Despite its complicated rules, hazard was very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries and was often played for money. At Crockford's Club in London, hazard was especially popular. In the 19th century, the game craps developed from hazard through a simplification of the rules. Craps is now very popular in North America but neither game remains popular amongst the rest of the world.


Any number may play, but only one player — the caster — has the dice at any one time.

In each round, the caster specifies a number between 5 and 9 inclusive: this is the main. He then throws two dice.

  • If he rolls the main, he wins (throws in or nicks).
  • If he rolls a 2 or a 3, he loses (throws out).
  • If he rolls an 11 or 12, the result depends on the main:
    • with a main of 5 or 9, he throws out with both an 11 and a 12;
    • with a main of 6 or 8, he throws out with an 11 but nicks with a 12;
    • with a main of 7, he nicks with an 11 but throws out with a 12.
  • If he neither nicks nor throws out, the number thrown is called the chance. He throws the dice again:
    • if he rolls the chance, he wins;
    • if he rolls the main, he loses (unlike on the first throw);
    • if he rolls neither, he keeps throwing until he rolls one or the other, winning with the chance and losing with the main.

This is simpler to follow in a table:

As long as he keeps winning, the caster may keep playing: but if he loses three times in succession, he must pass the dice to the player to his left, who becomes the new caster.


Bets are between the caster and the bank (the setter), which may be the remaining players acting as a group.

If the caster nicks on the first throw, he wins an amount equal to his stake. After the first throw, the caster wins his stake if he gets his chance before his main.

After the first throw, the caster (and others, in side bets) may wager an additional sum that the chance will come before the main. These bets are made at odds determined by the relative proportions of the main and the chance:

For example, with an odds stake of £10, a main of 7 and a chance of 5, a castor stands to win £15 (3/2 × £10); with the same stake, a main of 5 and a chance of 6, he could win £8 (4/5 × £10).

Probability of winning

For each main the probability of winning can be calculated:

In some reports[1] on the rules of the game, the main is determined randomly by tossing the dice until a valid main appears. In this case the overall player disadvantage is 1.84%. If the caster can choose a main, he should always choose 7. This may be how craps evolved, since if you always choose 7 the game is basically just craps.

Craps and Hazard

At its heart, craps is a version of Hazard where the main is always 7:

  • if the shooter (the caster) rolls a 7 or 11 on his first throw, he wins;
  • if he rolls a 2, 3, or 12, he loses;
  • if he rolls anything else, that is his point (his chance); he now keeps throwing until he wins by making (rolling) his point or loses by rolling a 7.

However, betting in craps is significantly more complicated.

Etymology of the name

The name "hazard" is borrowed from Old French. The origin of the French word is unclear[2], but probably derives from Spanish azar ("an unfortunate card or dice roll"), with the final -d by analogy with the common French suffix -ard.[2][3] The Spanish word has been supposed in turn to come from Arabic, either from the name of a castle in Palestine[2], or from the word az-zahr (الزهر) meaning "dice".[2][3] However, early evidence for this word in Arabic is lacking, as it is absent from Classical Arabic dictionaries, making the etymology doubtful.[2][3] Another possibility is Arabic yasara ("he played at dice").[3]

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